Warbird is live!

I’ve been threatening you with my huge space opera, Warbird, for some time, but now it’s available in paperback, the first print offering from Cathaven Press.

It’s the story of the TSCV Vienna, an innovative space craft that can travel very rapidly across the galaxy, leaping through voidspace. On her maiden voyage the crew of the Vienna find a wrecked alien vessel and rescue its three occupants. First contact is going swimmingly, until Space Corps recall them to known space. A human colony has been attacked, leaving thousands dead, and Vienna’s crew find themselves on the wrong side of an interstellar war. The stakes are high as both races have terrible weapons that can devastate planets, so our heroes must find a way to stop the conflict before that happens.

The book is written in first person and is a head-hopping novel with chapters given to six different characters. Much of the book is told from the perspective of Rachel Murray, commander of the Vienna. She has flashes of precognition even though she’s sceptical of such outlandish psychic abilities. Quinn Gresham, captain of the starship, has other chapters, and we also hear from Dr Christopher Brennan, head of the team which designed and built the Vienna, Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Ede, Rachel’s boyfriend, Lieutenant Carla Villeneuve, communications officer on the Vienna’s Bridge, and Dr Lyn Sawyer, a linguist directed to compile a dictionary of the alien language. The aliens themselves are pretty neat – well, I would say that, wouldn’t I? After all, I created them.

Lurking behind the human characters is Warbird, the AI that runs the ship. It sees and hears everything and although it strenuously denies it, has a distinct sense of humour.

For those of you who are sensitive about such things there’s a fair bit of sex and a lot of swearing in this book. I wouldn’t recommend it for kids. Vienna’s Chief Engineer, Mark Wilder is particularly foul-mouthed. Sometimes characters do stuff that the author hadn’t intended, so you have to run with it!

Warbird is available from Amazon UK for £12.95 – we tried to keep the price down, but it’s almost 500 pages. Amazon US has it for around $16. The cover is by Adam Benet Shaw, who did several of my covers at Pro Se, and there’s a gorgeous frontispiece by the much acclaimed and award-winning artist, Jim Pitts. The e-book is in preparation and should be up in about a week.


2018 – a year of didn’ts

I hoped to have two books out in 2018.

Didn’t happen.

The Beauty of our Weapons, the fourth in the Anna and Zenni series, is still due to be published by ProSe Press, but has been delayed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; StarChild, the third in the series, came out in the final days of 2017 and I think its sales suffered because it slipped under the radar. Beauty should be out soon, I hope.

Warbird has also been delayed. Various household expenses meant that I couldn’t buy the ISBNs I need to self-publish print titles, but I hope to get them soon. Once I have them I’ll probably also bring out the e-books, No Earthly Shore and The Dragon, Fly in print.

Not having any books out in 2018 means that I don’t have anything that can be nominated for any awards. Ah, who am I kidding? I don’t write the kind of stuff that wins awards. I’ll never be a well-known or bestselling author. I have a few dedicated fans and I’m very glad of them, but I ain’t gonna be famous any time soon.

I went to two cons this year – Follycon, the SF Eastercon in Harrogate and Novacon in Nottingham. Both were enjoyable, but I didn’t do any panels or readings, or take a dealers table. I also did a signing event, The Darker Side of Fiction in Peterborough, which was a limited success. Nothing planned this year so far.

I didn’t write much in 2018. The news is so depressing that I’ve had to stop reading it – the world is in such a terrible state. It’s hard to maintain any level of creativity in the face of that, but I’ve started to dabble in prose again. There are several things I need to finish, notably Anna and Zenni volume five.

I’m sorry that this has been such a negative post. I did make one cheerful New Year’s resolution this year, that I’d go out for tea and a cake at least once a month, just to try and lift my spirits. Mmm, cake – think I might be able to keep that one.

Happy New Year to all of you.

This Writing Life

I went to Fantasycon by the Sea, which was in Scarborough at the end of September. I’d never been to the town before – it’s delightful. We stayed at the Grand Hotel, a slightly faded Victorian gem with wonderful views of the bay and harbour. Although the weather forecast was cloudy with some rain, we had a very sunny weekend. We met up with a lot of old friends and found some new ones. I was particularly glad to see Irene Soldatos and Harriet Goodchild, who I’ve known since the old Authonomy days but had never met before in the flesh. They were there promoting their books, Irene’s Bad Bishop, and Harriet’s The Crooked Path, which had only just come out.

I went to some panels, the Elizabeth Bear and Frances Hardinge interviews, and even did a reading from Dead Men. As usual, the reading venue was tucked well away from most of the con, and I only got an audience of eight. We did sell a few books over the weekend, so that was a bonus.

I’m trying to do more readings. Like most authors I suspect, I’m not a natural performer and I find it hard to read my stuff out loud in public. I used to hate reading around the class at school (we even had to do it in French once!) and I was usually several chapters ahead, and so had to stumble back to the right place when my turn came, but these are my stories, so I ought to be able to tell them. A friend has organised a monthly reading evening in a local pub – it’s called Fiction Fix. Here’s a link to a report on her website from the first one, with incriminating photos! I’ve done two readings there so far, and although the venue isn’t ideal and I struggle with using a microphone, it’s good practice. I found that the Anna and Zenni books are difficult to read from, due to the telepathic conversations that make much more sense on the page. Last time I read from The Third Worst Thing That Can Happen On Mars, and I found Vonnie’s voice was much easier to do.

The next date is November 6th, so if you’re near Peterborough, drop into the Draper’s Arms at about 8 pm. I plan to read something from my unpublished space opera, Warbird, which is waiting for a cover and will probably appear next year.

In other news, The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone is due to come out in print and e-book from Pro Se Press soon. I’m waiting for the galleys and to see the cover. I’ll post updates here.

Spring Newsletter

The Pro Se version of To Die A Stranger is now three months old. Not sure how it’s selling – one disadvantage of being with a publisher is that you don’t get the instant feedback on sales that you do when you’re self-pubbed. I bought half a dozen and gave some away to friends and relations, my sister bought three and I know of a few others sold in the UK. It’s POD, so it won’t vanish from the shelves. Amazon did discount it for a while, so it’s worth watching out for a reduced price in the future. I have no control over that, as it’s all down to Amazon.

After a dry patch, I’m starting to write again. The sequel to TDAS, With Amber Tears, has been finished for a while, but I’ve never been totally happy with it and it was a little on the short side. I ripped the first half of it apart – rather like opening up a tin of spam along one side with an old-fashioned can-opener – and added two new characters and a bit more world-building. I think it’s better now. Dave’s going to read it and run an edit then, if we’re happy with it, it can go to Pro Se.

Warbird was accepted by a small publisher – it’s being edited and is in search of an appropriate cover. The plan is to bring it out later this year.

Judging from its Amazon rankings, the e-book of Blood Type is still selling. It isn’t out in paperback yet – I’ll let you know when that happens.

Spring has sprung here – we’ve had snowdrops and daffodils, and are now into violets, honesty and forsythia. The apple blossom is still in bud, and seems a little late this year. My father’s lawn is full of self-seeded primroses – not only yellow, but blue, pink, purple and red – plus violets in several shades of purple. He even has violets growing in his drive!

Have Yourself A Very Merry Solstice

I don’t really do Xmas. When I was at the lab I was always annoyed by all the smug crowing of those who weren’t working between Xmas Eve and January 2nd, while we were lucky to get Xmas Day and Boxing Day off (and some of us didn’t, having to go in to tend the bugs or provide on-call cover). I don’t respond well to the constant demands to be jolly and spend, spend, spend. This year I sent out a few cards, bought a few presents and replaced the dead fern in the bathroom with an attractive mottled Poinsettia. In keeping with my Pagan beliefs, I do indulge in some festive eating and drinking, although Xmas dinner will be a quiet affair, and a sad reminder of family members missing from the table.

So, to all my readers, do have a very happy Xmas or Solstice or whatever seasonal event you choose to celebrate, and may good fortune fly with you in the New Year.

As a Solstice gift to all of you, I’ve changed the excerpt on the Warbird page to Chapter Ten of the lengthy space-opera, the bit where the crew of the Vienna have a first contact with a non-humanoid race. Please enjoy!

Blog Maintenance

I’d previously added one of my Poltergeist: the Legacy fanfics, The Harrowing of Hell, to the site, but hadn’t read all the way through the page. Bad mistake. At almost 65000 words, it’s practically a novel, and the nice light background runs out long before the end*, making it very difficult to read. My apologies to anyone who struggled through it. If you did finish it, you deserve the highest accolade known to man which, according to a dear friend of mine, is an OBE and a Curly Wurly.

As a bonus, I’ve swapped the content on the Warbird page. It now has Chapter One, and I may post other chapters later, just for fun.


*This still happens if you enlarge the text. Sorry about that, but I’m not sure I can fix it for all sizes of text.


I’m writing this post in full-on drama queen mode, so do be aware that I may delete it later, when normal life has been resumed.

I won’t be around much on this blog and other Internet places for a week or two. I’m having surgery on Monday and I’ll be in hospital for about a week afterwards. I’m expecting a fair amount of pain and I’ll be stuck at home, as I can’t drive for about six weeks. I’ve had a lot of support and good wishes – thank you for that, all of you.

I’ve never had a general anaesthetic, so I’m pretty terrified. I’ve been coping with the wait before the op with a combination of denial and abject panic – I am such a coward! I spent a long time working in the NHS, but being at the sharp end, on the patient side, is scary. So, although I’m sure I’ll be fine, I want to say this to my family, my friends, all my old colleagues at the lab and everyone else who’s touched my life – thanks.

Before I get too maudlin, here’s a little treat, a chapter from my SF/space opera Work in Progress, Warbird.  If I do need an epitaph, I could do worse than borrow the one I wrote for Rachel* – “She loved the Earth, but dreamt of stars; now she is amongst them.”


* not  a spoiler. Rachel doesn’t die in this book, but in its unwritten sequel.